Research Problem Background
Early preschool education plays a vital role in children’s further academic success and balanced development. The fact that early childhood development (ECD) allows revealing a child’s potential to the fullest extent is obvious. Many developed countries such as the United States or Canada assign ECD a top priority by declaring it a national agenda (Britto et al. 93). In their turn, parents try to register their children in preschools. The situation is different in developing countries, the citizens of which encounter challenges with ECD based on various factors. In particular, poor access to education, living in remote areas, and low income may be enumerated among the key reasons.
In disadvantaged communities, children are at risk of adverse factors that may decrease their early development abilities. The low parental engagement and stimulation may serve as the key factors that impede the social and cognitive potential of a child (Prinsloo and Reid 94). One of the recent studies conducted in Bloemfontein, South Africa shows that the situation is deteriorated by multiple problems such as unemployment, insensitivity, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, et cetera. For instance, in Uruguay, “18 percent show that poor child development and violence affects 60.6 percent of the youngest children” (“UNICEF Annual Report 2016. Uruguay” 1). Even though there are various programs targeting the creation of appropriate conditions that are likely to improve parent engagement and promote their contribution to preschool development, the situation remains critical.
In view of the identified background, the problem of insufficient preschool education becomes evident. There is a need to continue exploring the mentioned topic in order to determine the causes and eliminate them in the future. The aims of the proposed study may be formulated as follows:
- To research the relevant scholarly literature and reveal the key tendencies and pitfalls in preschool education in developing countries;
- To specify cause-and-effect relationships between attitudes and perceptions of parents and registering for preschool classes;
- To evaluate the impacts of social and economic factors on the levels of registering children for preschools.
Importance of the Study
While the majority of organizations focus on poverty alleviation and assistance to developing countries as a global effort, little attention is paid to ECD (Munthali 107). The transition from preschool to school period is characterized by a drastic change in the place of a child in the system of relationships accessible to him or her. It should be emphasized that the students’ position creates a special orientation of personality, which will be reflected not only in academic learning but also in the formation of their views. Children perceive a school as not just an activity for the assimilation of knowledge and not only a way of preparing for the future, yet as the participation in the daily life of people around. Therefore, the way a preschooler will cope with his or her school duties along with success or failure in school affairs has pivotal importance. Consequently, the issues of preparation for schooling concern education, intellectual development, and the formation of personality.
Children from nuclear families attending no preschool adapt to the new life situations with difficulties, and they are likely to be non-confident in themselves. At the beginning of primary education, they are more alert than other children to the representatives of different gender, avoid communicating with classmates, and do not play with them (Ali 95). At the same time, they are strained to communicate with a teacher, pretending to talk with him or her more meaningfully or familiarly than other students. The level of their general development is either higher than that of their peers, or they are characterized by greater infantilism, lagging behind both in general development and readiness for school life compared to other children.
Children attending preschool courses in the system of additional education are more successful since their psychological adaptation to school is less stressful and more effective. Hence, the basic pre-school preparation has a positive result and should be developed. Conducting special classes for parents is not just a parent meeting in its traditional sense, yet it is methodological and psychological assistance. A teacher introduces parents to the peculiarities of the physical and mental development of a child of this age, the main difficulties in adapting, and answers the most frequently asked questions. During such meetings, parents can test themselves and their children on the degree of readiness for school and, most importantly, a teacher can immediately give the necessary advice and recommendations to enhance the current situation.
The role of preschool training lies in the fact that it allows preparing children for primary education and ensures that they will be successful in learning. For example, the criteria of a child’s readiness for learning in primary school include, first of all, the assessment of the level of cognitive development processes as the basis of psychological readiness for learning in school. The formation of a child’s cognitive skills should contain the abilities to explore the world through various analyzers, act variably in an educational or life problem situation, memorize, save and reproduce the necessary information, and think independently, analyzing, comparing, and grouping objects and phenomena of the surrounding world. Children’s personality is also assessed based on the presence of cooperation skills and the ability to reflect, adequately analyzing themselves and others.
In order to ensure that children develop in a balanced manner, it is critical to provide both academic education and physical activity. The physiological readiness for primary school involves the characteristic of a child’s health, the existing deviations in physical development as well as features of performance and fatigue (Richter et al.110). In their study, Jayasuriya et al. emphasize that many parents perceive outdoor activities for their preschool children as a secondary need, while they are rather beneficial for health (1004). The results of the research that explores the perception of parents revealed that 50 percent of respondents were not aware whether their children receive the recommended 60 minutes of physical education per day or not (Jayasuriya et al. 1012). This study shows that the existing evidence and practitioners may overestimate parents-related barriers since the latter are informed poorly about the advantages and policies of outdoor activities.
Expected Outcomes and Research Questions
The paramount goal of the proposed study is to achieve a better understanding of why the majority of parents do not register their children for preschool education in developing countries. According to Crosnoe et al., socioeconomic inequality expressed largely in maternal employment and education is considered as the key predictor of a child’s enrollment in preschool education (608). A set of side factors may also contribute to the identified problem. In this regard, it is expected to clearly determine these factors and comprehend how they affect parents’ attitudes to registering their children. In addition, the researcher will strive to reveal possible ways of addressing the mentioned factors based on the results of the proposed study as well as the available literature. The following research questions will be utilized to achieve the expected outcomes:
- What are the factors that prevent parents from registering their children in preschools in developing countries?
- How parents’ awareness of the importance of preschool education can be improved?
- What are the most relevant and feasible ways of addressing the problem?
Hypothesis: The increase in parents’ awareness regarding the significance of preschool education will impact positively their decisions to register their children for attending the corresponding training.
Core Concepts and Theories
Early childhood development. It is a stage of development that implies the formation of the basis for children’s future learning and overall well-being. Early childhood interventions form the personality, attitudes, and intelligence, having an impact in a long-term perspective. It should be stressed that early experiences have a decisive role in the formation of the brain by creating a context for further knowledge and skills of a person. Modern health and education organizations agree that early childhood development should be comprehensive, including both academic performance and physical activity. Therefore, it is critical to pay as much attention as possible to ensure that children will visit preschools in developing countries.
Preschool education. As the first level of education, preschool programs are aimed at the diverse development of children of preschool age, taking into account their age and individual characteristics. To successfully master educational programs of primary education, children are offered classes based on an individual approach to them and preschool-specific activities (Sanderson and Preedy 28). Parents or caregivers who provide children with preschool education have the right to receive methodological, psychological, educational, and counseling assistance, including information regarding preschool educational organizations and institutions.
School readiness. Many parents consider their child’s ability to read, count, and write as readiness for school. At the same time, they spend a lot of energy and emotions, thus trying to prepare the child for school. In fact, not every child who possesses these skills is successful in school life. Often difficulties are noted from the very beginning of primary education, and they are caused by psychological unpreparedness to school. Therefore, it is important to emphasize that a set of social, physical, and motivational issues identify school readiness.
Parent involvement. Since preschool children feel a strong attachment to their parents, they need their assistance and emotional support while starting to learn (Sira et al. 33). The activities conducted by parents at home and in early childhood development organizations compose the concept of parent involvement. Either direct or indirect assistance of parents is regarded as the main goal that allows connecting children with educational settings, teachers, and other students.
Ecological systems theory. This theory of child socialization and development elaborated by Uri Bronfenbrenner describes various social environments and how they affect a child. According to Bronfenbrenner, the ecological environment of a child’s development consists of four systems, as if embedded in one another, which are usually graphically depicted as concentric rings (Smith et al. 10). In particular, there is a microsystem (a child’s family), mesosystem (preschool), exosystem (adult social organizations), and macrosystem (culture, values, and resources).
Approach and Methodology
The ecological systems theory will be utilized as the framework for the proposed study due to its comprehensive approach to considering a child’s development in various contexts. This approach allows defining ecological niches – areas that are particularly useful or detrimental to the development of a child with certain personal characteristics (Onwuegbuzie et al. 3). According to the ecological systems theory, development is influenced by relationships within the given environment, and they form the wider context in which the environment is enabled. Attention should be paid to the fact that a child is understood as a person who is actively shaping his or her own development. At the same time, society is not presented as immobile or limited reality but as a complex and dynamic system. The ecological approach shows that without taking into account the influence of social factors, it is impossible to adequately understand the formation of a child as a person.
The qualitative explanatory design research will be based on open-ended interviews and survey questions. The specified data collection tools seem to be the most relevant to understanding barriers encountered by parents since they will receive the opportunity to express their thoughts and views on preschool education (Creswell and Creswell 38). The analysis of answers will allow revealing key factors and equip parents with instruments to increase their awareness of this topic. 80 parents of children of a preschool-age who were not registered in any preschool and living in the developing country (Uruguay) will be selected based on random sampling for the proposed study. They will be given consent forms that will present the problem, aims, and hypothesis. It will be emphasized that participation in the research is voluntary and anonymous. All collected data will be coded to protect respondents’ personal information confidential.
Data collection will include one-to-one interviews with each of the participants, which will be recorded and coded, and field notes will be analyzed as well. The semi-structured interviews with several key questions will ensure the discussion flexibility in order to uncover the experiences and challenges of respondents (Lewis 474). In the framework of the ecological model, each of the niches will be targeted by the researcher while asking specific questions. In its turn, the survey will contain 20 statements and five possible answers, where participants will be asked to select the most suitable one. Namely, the following answers will be offered: strongly disagree, disagree, undecided, agree, and strongly agree.
The analysis of the collected data will be performed based on the evaluation of answers as well as their comparison and grouping. The keywords, themes, and tendencies will be highlighted, and they will be consolidated and presented in tables and graphs to visualize information. The reactions of participants will also be assessed as a part of the study (Spodek and Saracho 488). All the processes will be documented with the aim of ensuring the research’s reliability and validity. The results are likely to increase parents’ awareness of the need to register their children and ensure their opportunity to receive proper preparation for school. The findings will be disseminated to participants, preschool teachers, and other interested parties. The study implications are likely to be beneficial both for theory, as the review of the existing literature, and practice improvement.
Ali, Syed Sadat. “A Brief Review of Risk-Factors for Growth and Developmental Delay Among Preschool Children in Developing Countries.” Advanced Biomedical Research, vol. 2, 2013, 91-100.
Britto, Pia R., et al. “Nurturing care: Promoting Early Childhood Development.” The Lancet, vol. 389, no.10064, 2017, pp. 91-102.
Creswell, John W., and J. David Creswell. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches. 5th ed., Sage, 2017.
Crosnoe, Robert, et al. “The Selection of Children from Low-Income Families into Preschool.” Developmental Psychology, vol. 52, no. 4, 2016, pp. 599-612.
Jayasuriya, Avanthi, et al. “Parents’ Perceptions of Preschool Activities: Exploring Outdoor Play.” Early Education and Development, vol. 27, no. 7, 2016, pp. 1004-1017.
Lewis, Sarah. “Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches.” Health Promotion Practice, vol. 16, no. 4, 2015, pp. 473-475.
Munthali, Alister C., et al. “Early Childhood Development: The Role of Community Based Childcare Centres in Malawi.” SpringerPlus, vol. 3, no. 1, 2014, pp. 305-315.
Onwuegbuzie, Anthony J., et al. “Foreword: Using Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory to Frame Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed Research.” International Journal of Multiple Research Approaches, vol. 7, no. 1, 2013, pp. 2-8.
Prinsloo, Mari, and Marianne Reid. “Experiences of Parents Regarding a School-Readiness Intervention for Pre-School Children Facilitated by Community Health Nursing Students.” International Journal of Africa Nursing Sciences, vol. 3, 2015, pp. 94-101.
Richter, Linda M., et al. “Investing in the Foundation of Sustainable Development: Pathways to Scale up for Early Childhood Development.” The Lancet, vol. 389, no. 10064, 2017, pp. 103-118.
Sanderson, Kay, and Pat Preedy. “Supporting Parents of Preschool Children to Develop Strategies for Schema-Based Play Activities to Enhance Attachment and Well-Being: A Preliminary Study in the United Arab Emirates.” FIRE: Forum for International Research in Education, vol. 3, no. 2, 2016, 25-40.
Sira, Natalia et al. “Building Alliance for Preschool Inclusion: Parents of Typically Developing Children, Attitudes and Perceptions.” Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, vol. 39, no. 1, 2018, pp. 32-49.
Smith, Peter K., et al. Understanding Children’s Development. John Wiley & Sons, 2015.
Spodek, Bernard, and Olivia N. Saracho. Handbook of Research on the Education of Young Children. 2nd ed., Routledge, 2014.
“UNICEF Annual Report 2016. Uruguay.” UNICEF, 2016, Web.